The Boutique Fitness Market

Eye on The Boutique Fitness Market

The boutique fitness revolution is full on. Beginning with the tremendous success of Soul Cycle, the space is getting more and more cluttered and still growing.  There are now many “boutique” studios opening in all disciplines, styles, and personalities across the U.S and internationally.

The rise came about as a natural outgrowth to Soul Cycle’s success, a maturing industry, changing patterns in exercise preference and a consumer desire for greater in-depth programming, a greater sense of community and belonging and a higher level of quality instructors.

 Fitness Studios are nothing new however, and in the fitness industry’s infancy they were all that existed. Lotte Berk Method ( the foundation for Barre ) began in London in the 1950’s. The Jane Fonda Studio and Jazzercise began the movement in the 1980’s. In fact, recycled ‘80’s workouts have once again emerged with the likes of Tracy Anderson’s workout and “ the Class”( although I question whether that style of workouts deserves its resurgence.) Back in the late 80’s and 90’s, Molly Fox, Jeff Martin, Kim Alzereca, and Tracey Pollan all had legendary studios in NYC while Karen Voight, and Martin Henry dominated the West. These studios spawned some of the very best talent we still have in the industry today and laid the ground work for the industry as it now exists.

Although Soul Cycle grabs the eye of the media, there are other huge successes within the space. We are now seeing the success of multiple studio’s presence and boutique chains sprouting up all over the country. Orange Theory has already sold out their locations and you would need to buy an existing franchise at this point to open one.


Cycle Bar, Xtend Bar and others are gaining ground as they put together turn key opportunities for fitness studio ownership. Spin off’s from Exhale, Physique 57, and Barry’s Boot Campuse similar formats and other modalities to offer greater variety, think Rumble, Row House, City Row, Shadow Box, SLT and the like.

Will this trend continue? What will be the fate for the larger multi purpose fitness Clubs and how will it affect the fitness industry overall?

The biggest impact and impediment I see is talent acquisition and competition for that talent. With the rapid expansion of all of these studios we are seeing a need for talented, personality plus instructors and the industry is not providing enough options to train and educate them.

I have heard second hand of certain boutique studios paying more attention to a person’s outward personal appearance and large social media accounts rather than their ability to educate, train, and lead an effective and safe workout.

I see this as a serious problem for the industry at large for a number of reasons. At the end of the day, group fitness is instructor driven. Despite the mode or format, if you look closer, it’s the instructor teaching the workout that affects it’s success.

In our recent past, the industry had more opportunities to train, educate, cultivate and generate qualified and exceptional instructors. Mentorship was a big factor for the success of the next generation entering the industry.  When asked, “how long does it take to become a good instructor? “ I always gave my patent answer, “ a lifetime”. However, my rule of thumb still holds strong, in saying at least three years of training.

As the industry continues to grow, it will be a challenge  to keep quality equal with demand.The industry itself has been moving away from aiding an instructor’s continuing development and talent. Once one becomes “certified”; which is as diverse as an online course, weekend workshops, to written exams, there is little formal training for those instructors. Boutique Studios teach their own unique proprietary format but again, with time constraints and staff limitations, there is little time dedicated to the art and science of being a properly educated and skillful instructor. This phenomenon leads us to produce under educated instructors who must learn on the job from questionable sources.

It is my belief that quality and dedicated mentorship is largely missing from the present fitness industry situation and there are less and less opportunities and time for the proper quality training our next generation needs.  

There are of course many qualified professionals that could mentor,  However, budget and time constraints along with proprietary methods and exclusivity agreements seem to be getting in the way. The industry itself must see this as a larger issue and take a stand to move forward and correct it.

What’s your opinion? and your solutions?

Your input is welcome and appreciated. Send us your thoughts and feedback. It is NOT the agenda to be the” Fitness Police”, our intention is simply to start a dialogue and make space for all to be heard.



 Cycling,  HIIT training


 Restorative workouts, mindful programs for fit 40 -60 somethings


Soul Cycle




Barry’s Boot Camp


Cross fit


Orange theory

Cycle bar

Bar method, Pure Bar, Xtend bar

The boutique Fitness Studio market is still growing with everything from Mom and Pop single locations to big chains  (think NYSC, Equinox, Crunch all doing their own version). If you are planning on entering the space, be prepared for maximum competition. Your studio should feature a program or format that is unique, possibly niche, with all the bells and whistles to compete in an arena that is becoming more and more cluttered with choice.


At the end of the day and each and every day, I will still stick to my guns and my belief,